Normal rains expected
ZIMBABWE is expected to receive normal to above normal rains during the 2016/17 rainfall season with agriculture experts advising farmers to plant with the first rains.
The higher than usual rains are expected to come as early as late September in some parts of the country.
Meteorological Services Department senior forecaster Ms Vimbayi Mamombe said there is a high likelihood of an early start of the season for the whole country with significant rains as early as late September in the Southern areas of Zimbabwe.
Regions 1, 2 and 3, are expected to receive normal to above normal rains during the period October to December 2016.
Region 1 comprises of the bulk of Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, North Eastern parts of Midlands and parts of Manicaland, while region 2 consists of the bulk of Matabeleland North, parts of Midlands and parts of Mashonaland West.
Region 3 is made up of Masvingo, the bulk of Midlands, extreme southern parts of Manicaland and the bulk of Matabeleland South.
Region 1 is expected to receive rains averaging 307mm; region 2,248mm and region 3,261 mm from October to December 2016.
From November to January 2017, regions 1 and 2 are expected to receive normal to below normal rains while Region 3 is expected to receive normal to above normal rains.
Regions 1 and 3 are expected to receive normal to above normal rainfall from December to February 2017 while Region 2 is expected to receive normal to below normal rainfall. From January to March 2017, Region 1 and 2 are expected to receive normal to above normal rains while Region 3 is expected to receive normal to below normal rainfall.
Ms Mamombe said inputs, including small grains should be distributed to all regions by end of September 2016 in Matabeleland South, Masvingo, Midlands and southern districts of Manicaland and by end of October for the rest of the country.
In view of the moisture availability and suitable temperatures thresholds, those with water should not wait for the main rains to fall. They can plant any time now.
Despite the higher chances of higher than usual rains this season, Zimbabwe should always expect and plan for one form of drought or another as it is now rare for the whole country to experience the same weather conditions.
Ms Mamombe said there was need to continue with water harvesting programmes especially those in agro-ecological zones 4 and 5.
“We should keep in mind that there are indications of deterioration in the rainfall amounts as the season progresses.
“The policies of small dam construction and borehole drilling or deepening, conservation such as contour or ridging, should be implemented. Incentives for maize production in support of command agriculture should be announced as soon as possible rather than wait until the middle of the season,” she said.
Stakeholders who attended the rainfall outlook workshop on Wednesday agreed that the rainfall forecast should be made available to users timely for planning purposes.
Agritex official Mr Hillary Mugiyo said weather information should be disseminated to farmers early.
He said the challenge was that sometimes the information was coarse and not user-friendly to most farmers.
“We should have local small scale forecast if possible at district level so the information becomes more appropriate to the farmers. We recommended that 10 day forecasts be made available to farmers in time for planning,” he said.
Principal agronomist Mrs Sibongile Chikore urged farmers without draught power to use conservation farming.
“Farmers should make planting stations early than wait for the rains,” she said. Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board technical manager Mr Blessing Dhokotera said the season is good for tobacco production considering that about 80 percent of the growers where smallholder farmers who relied on rainfed agriculture.
Last season the country experienced an El Nino induced drought which resulted in crop failure and livestock deaths.
Climate experts have however raised concern over delays in reacting to the rainfall forecasts.
The Sadc region has lost large herds of cattle to drought.
Advocate Prince Machaya